Yanks 'pen rewrites Javy's shaky start

NEW YORK -- A.J. Burnett was lit up for six runs in seven innings Friday and Javy Vazquez couldn't get through the fourth inning in an awful outing Saturday. So the Yankees starting pitching against the Mariners -- the worst-hitting team in baseball -- did little to inspire confidence about the staff's ability to pitch in the playoffs.

But, if nothing else, the starters' struggles gave the Yankees bullpen a chance to continue its recent run of dominant outings.

Bombers relievers limited Seattle to four hits and one earned run over the final six innings of the Yankees' 9-5 win Saturday afternoon.

The Yankee bullpen has combined for a 1.53 ERA since July 26. In that span, they've fanned 66 hitters and have held opposing batters to a .181 average.

Not a bad run for a bullpen that had an unsightly ERA of 4.20 in the middle of May, ranking ninth out of 14 teams in the American League.

"It was tough," right-hander Chad Gaudin said of the bullpen's struggles early in the season. "But you stick it out and keep on fighting and here we are."

Gaudin has been in the thick of the bullpen's stellar performance the last two days. The right-hander relieved an ineffective Vazquez in the fourth and threw three scoreless innings with the score 4-4, a day after tossing two shutout innings in the Bombers' 6-0 loss to the Mariners on Friday. Gaudin has lowered his ERA by nearly three runs over his last 13 appearances and has allowed just one run in his last six outings.

"That's the game-winning performance," Mark Teixeira said of Gaudin's three shutout frames.

Gaudin handed the ball to left-hander Boone Logan in the seventh with the score still 4-4. Logan got Ichiro Sukuki, who earlier homered twice off Vazquez, to fly out to right. He then retired Chone Figgins and Russell Branyan with fly balls to right.

Mariano Rivera took the mound with two out in the eighth and the Yanks up 7-4. Four outs later, Rivera walked off the field with his 25th save.

He's reached the 25-save plateau for 14 straight seasons -- the longest streak since saves became an official statistic in 1969.

But Rivera's success is a given. The wild-card has always been the rest of the bullpen's ability to get him the ball. After a shaky first-half, they've come on strong since late July. Logan, who earned his first win as a Yankee on Saturday, looks forward to the pen continuing its hot streak into October.

"We've been doing it as of late," the lefty said. "Hopefully we'll keep it going until the end of the regular season and into the playoffs."

Ian Begley is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.

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